A look at second base, backup catcher and the bullpen

While the hot stove season is still in warm-up mode, let’s take a look at three aspects of the 2012 Orioles and what they might look like next season.

Are the O’s set at second base?: The Orioles have a lot of candidates to play at second base, but no one jumps out as the regular right now unless you have confidence that Brian Roberts will return healthy and regain his old job. Clearly the club can’t count on that, but rather can hope for it.

Recent addition Alexi Casilla brings a good glove and some base-stealing ability, but on a team that is out to improve its OBP, his career mark is just .305 and it was .282 last year. Casilla doesn’t seem to add much on offense.

Maybe the Orioles see strength in numbers here between Robert Andino, Ryan Flahery, Roberts and Casilla. And, by the way, Omar Quintanilla remains on the 40-man at this point.

Right now, this position doesn’t look set to me although Dan Duquette has made comments to indicate the club is not pursuing any others to play second in 2013.

Should the Orioles bring Taylor Teagarden back as backup catcher?: Taylor Teagarden is a first-time arbitration-eligible player and that may mean the Orioles could add someone else at a slightly lower price, but I think they should bring Teagarden back to back up Matt Wieters.

Keep in mind that means returning a catcher who hit .158 in 22 games and threw out just two of eight base-stealers. Nothing impressive about those two stats, but to me that doesn’t tell the whole story.

You can’t put a stat on the importance of a catcher’s game-calling ability and the confidence that instills in the pitcher. But there were several times last year that the O’s starting pitcher cited Teagarden’s work behind the plate as a factor in a win. They did it without anyone even asking about Teagarden. That speaks volumes to me and if the O’s have to pay a few extra dollars than some teams might for a backup at catcher, it’s worth it.

Can the Orioles bullpen repeat its performance next year?: The answer that seems to make the most sense here is no. But I do think the bullpen should remain a strength of the club in 2013.

If you look at a few key pitchers and how good they were last year, they have been just about that good before. Jim Johnson’s ERA, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio were all similar to the previous year. Of course he didn’t have 51 saves then, but 2012 was his first season as a full-time closer. Meanwhile, as good as he was, Darren O’Day’s ERA and WHIP were better with Texas in 2010 and Luis Ayala had a better ERA with the 2011 Yankees.

They were just three pieces of a bullpen which got big performances from many different pitchers all year long. Having as many players perform as well next year seems unlikely. The bullpen was a key part of the O’s 29-9 record in one-run games. Doesn’t seem reasonable to expect them to be as good in 2013. Still, the ‘pen should be good again in 2013.

What do you think about second base, backup catcher and the bullpen moving forward for the Orioles?

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